In August, Dad started to develop the shuffle. This new development in his Alzheimer’s hit me between the eyes. It’s been a profound journey acknowledging and accepting his Alzheimer’s diagnosis. I try to keep myself in time with it by thinking of him like a child. Still, I found myself struggling with grief. Suddenly he was like a two year old- and I had only just gotten comfortable with him being two and a half!!
His shuffling slowed us both down. I wanted to be showing him the world, reminding him of a bigger picture and finding new things to laugh about. Instead I had to stabilize and protect him. Not only that, I was now freaking out: with the shuffling came an intense shadowy presence. As he lurched along, something else lurked right along with him -an emotional storm of resentment perhaps.
The daughter in me tried to adapt to his loss. Accepting this storm as a natural response to losing more capacity in the world, I thought to myself, ‘Ok, now it’s about getting through the day. Try to let go of some of those expectations, kid!’
As a matter of policy, I didn’t normally meditate for my dad all that frequently. I chose instead to focus on myself and send him some grounding and healing attention every once in a while. This shadow aggravated me so much that one day I broke down and decided to meditate on it. Forgive me dad for not doing so sooner! I rationalized, ‘isn’t this part of taking greater responsibility for his well-being?’
So I hammered away at the murky shuffle. Only to find, it shifted dramatically. Suddenly dad’s gait elongated and his focus transformed from preoccupied to conversational and light.
It was immediate. He smiled. Although his nice long steps didn’t endure all that thoroughly, what stuck was a greater sense of witness of himself. I smiled.
As his shuffling sort of faded in and out, I tried my best to handle his gait issue without shifting my attention to it fully. Admittedly my new role of service provider and healer to my father was taking a back seat to chauffeur and daughter. Still I couldn’t help but think we were making great strides.
A few months of these small discoveries later, I finally stepped up for him in a new way… As if suddenly I realized this was my responsibility as much as being his chauffeur or sometime attendant. And so, I invested some time in exploring whether I could take it further and make some more lasting steps towards improvement.
As I turned inwards I shifted into a higher state of awareness and honed in on my dad’s jumbled walk. There were many factors at play, all entwined in one another but equally shouting to be disentangled, to be restored to his Self. I worked on the most prominent first, disengaging its source of strength. Essentially this first tangle pertained to his dissent with his own life’s journey. It was as if life were asking him to turn a corner and he in turn said no. Naturally, this dissent with himself created a disturbance in his being but in a “normal” human psyche the person could negotiate the issue, perhaps by discussing it, perhaps by deciding to wrestle with it later or perhaps by releasing it altogether. From my perspective it was the Alzheimer’s condition (sorry I’ll get into this in a later post) just stopped it, the issue remained in constant locked in mode, waiting to be dealt with but not.
The second major factor stopping dad’s gait had to do with the bigger world. This is what a teacher of mine once called, ‘The Loss.’ Something to do with a huge, huge shift the earth itself is taking is forcing life to change. Yet, once again dad’s condition is impaired in that his energy is unable to shift, the same way a non-Alzheimer’s individual’s energy would shift. This particular energetic shift had something to do with his capacity to move.
So, that is to say that by meditating on dad’s human condition- issues we all grapple with and debate with as we eat, walk, talk and work- and healing it, I was essentially able to short circuit the symptoms, if you will, of Alzheimer’s.
With greater understanding they say comes greater reward… Today, Christmas of all days, I arrived at Dad’s apartment only to find him dapper, ready to go and walking in full strides.
Guess the new cane the assisted living team loaned him wasn’t needed today! We went off to dine with some great family friends and I found his gait held strong all day – sans any added participation from me! My attention went back to smiling and sharing a special day with the family.